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Whale died with stomach full of flip-flops, 115 plastic cups

A dead sperm whale found in Indonesia tells a heartbreaking tale of ocean pollution.


This sperm whale had a stomach full of plastic.

WWF-Indonesia/Kartika Sumolang

The discovery of a dead sperm whale at Kapota Island in Indonesia this week was sad enough, but the animal also quickly became a stark reminder of the serious environmental issues surrounding plastic pollution in the world's oceans.

Conservation group WWF-Indonesia posted images of the whale and what a team of researchers from Wakatobi National Park and the WWF found inside its stomach. 

The sperm whale's stomach contained two flip-flop sandals, a tangle of plastic ropes, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags and 115 plastic cups. The plastic debris weighed 13 pounds (5.9 kilograms). 

Due to the whale's decomposition, the team could not determine if the plastic played a role in its death. The Jakarta Post reports the body will be buried at a nearby beach.

According to the WWF, more than 8.8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year. Sea animals can easily mistake plastics for food and ingest everything from grocery bags to straws.

Researchers, governments and conservation organizations are working on curbing the problem through clean-up efforts and bans on single-use plastics, but the whale's plight shows we have a lot left to do.